Criticism from a local Hangar One preservationist has the United States Navy rethinking a new approach to historic documentation.
As a mitigation for tearing down much of Moffett Field's historic Hangar One, an interactive CD will soon be released documenting the history of the local landmark, with interviews, stories and photos. But the CD and the software used to run it may soon be obsolete, preventing historians from using it in the future, says Steve Williams, a Moffett Field Restoration Advisory board member and longtime Save Hangar One Committee member. In an email to Williams, an official from the Navy says it doesn't have money budgeted to fix the problem.
"I'm extremely disappointed this CD will provide such little historical value to the community," Williams told the Moffett RAB last week. "I thought I could solve this technologically, but now I don't know what to do."
The CD requires Adobe Flash software to run, and Williams says Flash is sure to be replaced at some point, the same way so many other video and music formats have gone by the wayside. Already, Apple's iPad and iPod won't run Flash or a CD, notes Williams, who uses an iPad.
Williams had been discussing options with the Navy for transferring the information on the CD to another format with "open standards" that would allow it to be preserved indefinitely. But that isn't possible, Williams says, because the contractor who made the CD, Planet 9, has bits of proprietary code embedded in the CD which it won't release, making it difficult to reproduce the CD in another format.
"We do not make a practice of delivering our source code as it contains code that is proprietary to Planet 9 and is used from project to project," Planet 9 said in a response to the inquiry from Williams.
The company goes on to say that the Flash and VRML files on the CD can be read with "freely available tools" including "Flash decompilers" available online. But Williams insists that such tools would only go so far, and produce a "jibberish form of the source code that can be used only with a lot of additional effort."
"In effect, the Navy and NASA unwisely allowed the contractor to use tools and methods that simply don't ensure historic durability," Williams wrote in a blog post on the topic this week at nuqu.org.